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Doncaster Rovers 2 Watford 1 (16/01/2010) 17/01/2010

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.
5 comments

Five thunks from a disappointing trip to the Keepmoat Stadium.

1- It seems somewhat churlish to complain. We knew the limitations that we were operating under this season; Malky Mackay has achieved wondrous things in the circumstances and expectations consequently need to be consciously kept in check. Nonetheless, this was disappointing; a deserved defeat against a tidy enough Donny side, but a Donny side that only ever looked like being put under pressure in the closing minutes.

2- Most concerning perhaps, given that this was with the possible exception of McGinn our full armoury, was our impotence in turning a reasonable amount of possession into chances. Donny had done their research, and played us to a tee… a disciplined, high defensive line exploited our lack of pace in attack, and robustly got their head to things when balls came into the box leaving us looking short of ideas. The introduction of Bryan, a hopeful punt in this sort of game, spoke volumes – it didn’t work, Bryan never got the ball in dangerous positions, but our need for something different was painfully evident.

3- In central midfield we were particularly disappointing. Henri Lansbury took 60 minutes to make any kind of contribution (albeit then testing the keeper with a fine rising shot from distance, like an adult playing with kids who had finally lost his restraint and let rip). The result was that whilst we made bringing the ball forward look difficult, Doncaster passed through our midfield effortlessly. Only Cowie’s industry, Doyley’s diligence and Loach’s brilliance (in a game where only his shot-stopping, rather than decision-making, were tested) relieved the gloom.

4- We discussed on the way up that Donny boss O’Driscoll’s curtailed dalliance with Burnley could work for us (the failed attempt to move on unsettling the home side) or against us (relief in the manager staying). The answer appeared to be provided by the wild celebration to what proved to be the winning goal, Donny’s squad (including the surely-he-must-be-dead-by-now John Oster and the ever-reliable James Chambers) bundling their boss on the touch line.

5- A word, finally, for referee Andy Hall; he booked three players and will have harder games to referee, but frankly I barely noticed him and don’t remember a single contribution. Good work, that man. Looking back over the history books, only a late penalty conceded at Cardiff last season, which I wasn’t at so can’t comment, blots his record. Having refereed the monumental clash at Bramall Lane in 2006, and tolerated the Steve Palmer “dodgy keeper” incident against Bournemouth in 1998 do not. Being churlish, he could have been harsher on Donny’s aggressive defending, particularly that of the impressive Shackell, but today’s result was nothing to do with him.

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Chelsea 5 Watford 0 (03/01/2010) 03/01/2010

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
27 comments

Five thunks from the now traditional thumping at Stamford Bridge

1- I think the most concise way to sum up the afternoon on the pitch is to echo my co-editor’s reflection that we’d have taken the then-existing scoreline with both hands at any point over the course of the ninety-plus minutes. That’s all you need to know really. There was a brief flurry of something akin to looking like making a fight of it at the start of the second half… we even stood up at one point. Didn’t last long though.

2- Whilst it’s easy enough to be smart with the benefit of hindsight, it’s difficult to remember a Watford squad as ill-equipped to handle a match like this. That’s not a comment intended to downplay the very great achievements of the squad this season… but any recipe for a cup upset against any senior opposition (let alone the league leaders) really does demand a bit of physical presence and a bit of pace, and we have neither – quite apart from the superior quality, each Chelsea player was a good three inches and half a stone bigger than their opposite number. Our biggest asset (minus the sorely missed Helguson) is the movement and interplay of our midfield, but Chelsea are far more used to this sort of thing than our regular opponents and more adept at dealing with it.

3- That said, there’s little excuse for affording opponents of this calibre quite this much space and time; gulf in quality or not – and there’s no doubt Chelsea could have had more had they really wanted to – at least three of the goals were of our own invitation. Chelsea didn’t really have to do very much. Most infuriating of all was Henri Lansbury’s booking at the end of the first half… the men in yellow having displayed a dogged refusal to put in a tackle in the first half, Lansbury’s first on ?Zhirkov? was a good few seconds after the ball had gone. As play continued, Belletti earned a yellow for a revenge-hack, but Lansbury rightly went into the book also. If you’re going to stand off, don’t bloody jump in after the ball has gone you numpty.

4- Good to see Ross Jenkins back. If there’s one slim positive to grasp it’s that yer man got 45 minutes of match action in a game that was already lost… we may be relatively well covered in centre-mid, and Jenkins’ form before his injury may not have hit last season’s heights, but he offers more for me than the persistently nondescript Severin, and is a better long-term bet than Eustace.

5- I have to confess to having slumped from a peak of attending every away game on the way to Cardiff in 2005/06… regular readers may have noted the lack of away thunks, this caused by this being only my second away trip of the season (I resolve to go to Doncaster in two weeks which, weather permitting, will be my 900th ‘orns fixture. Yes I am sad enough to know this). However by 3.05 I was wondering why I’d bothered. Not only had Daniel Sturridge, aided and abetted by our defending, mapped out the afternoon’s course, but it became evident that behind us was someone clearly persecuted by something akin to the Master’s tap-tap-tap-tapping in the head in Doctor Who. “Oh bloody hell Cowie you’re ****! I used to like you Graham but now you’re ****ing useless! Jenkins is doing alright. Oh ****ing hell Jenkins you ****!”. And so forth. Not sure my Mum will be braving another away trip for a while…